Our microbiome has been linked to numerous conditions. Imbalances of the normal gut microbiota have been associated with gastrointestinal conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome and broader systemic manifestations of disease such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and even depression.
As cancer rates continue to rise at a blistering pace, there is no surprise that there is an increased need to develop novel, effective therapeutic approaches, and the gut microbiome is suggested to play a crucial role in the activation of the immune system response against malignancies. It is well accepted that there is a link between the gut microbiome and various types of cancer and that gut microbiome dysbiosis is a significant modulator of cancer development.
Furthermore, the gut microbiome can even affect an individual's response to cancer treatment, and when we turn the tables, chemotherapy is known to impact the gut microbiome negatively.
In fact, antibiotic and chemotherapy-derived loss of gut diversity can be considered to be a predictive outcome of survival rates in cancer patients, and recent research suggests an association with melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer, renal cell carcinoma...and so on.
In the past decade, we have seen such dramatic growth of research into what was once previously the 'black-box' of science, and it is incredible to witness the evolution of microbiome-based therapy for cancer patients.
"The next generation of microbiome medicines will instead be real drugs that are easy to take and safe" - Roger Pomerantz.
However, how can we leverage our microbial fingerprint to our advantage when dealing with such a heartbreaking condition that takes the lives of so many people?
Vivarelli, S., Falzone, L., Leonardi, G., Salmeri, M. and Libra, M., 2022. Novel insights on gut microbiota manipulation and immune checkpoint inhibition in cancer (Review).
Well, experimental microbiome therapy is based on trying to restore and modulate patient-microbiome symbiosis to improve survival in cancer. Fundamentally, improving the richness and diversity of the cancer patient's natural ecosystem should lead to a better prognosis.
MaaT Pharma has developed an oral Microbiome Ecosystem Therapy, which contains a wide array of beneficial microbial species. Microbiome based drugs tend to have a very satisfactory safety profile compared to the average pharmaceutical drug.
Clinical trials conducted by MaaT Pharma have shown promising engraftment data of the oral therapy, and their Phase 1 clinical trial closed earlier than expected to advance to Phase 2/3.
Maat Pharma's Microbiome Ecosystem Therapy (MaaT013) contains a group of bacterial species that produce anti-inflammatory short-chain-fatty-acids. The mode of action proposed is immune-modulatory, in the way that the short-chain-fatty-acids up-regulate Treg cell activity in order to restore immune homeostasis. Additionally, the therapy includes restoring the gut barrier to prevent infection to multi-drug-resistant bacteria.
Additionally, microbiome therapies have the advantage of being patient-tailored so that the enrichment of the microbiome species can be carefully selected for each individual. This is a huge win compared to conventional cancer therapies, which are typically just thrown blindly at every person who has entered the BigPharma cancer funnel.
So, it seems our microbiome could become a more common objective in treating severe oncology diseases. We could correct the impact of stressors such as antibiotics and chemotherapies by recovering the human gut microbiome in cancer patients and treating these tiny creatures as a friend, not foes.
Ultimately, by connecting the dots between gut microbiome composition, cancer development and the host immune system, we will be able to build integrated and patient-tailored anticancer approaches with greater efficacy.
Anticancer therapy is increasingly becoming holistic, and future anticancer treatments will be tailored to the specific cancer patient based on the gut microbiome of the individual and their specific immune signature.